Riverside County received a $100 million grant to expand its jail system, only one of three California counties to receive the maximum grant from the California Corrections Standards Authority. The grant will be used for construction, not staffing, and requires the county to come up with a 10 percent or $10 million match in cash payments to install infrastructure or from in-kind services. The grant will eventually help ease prison overcrowding, although it will take significant time to construct needed new infrastructure.

Twenty counties applied for grants and 11 received them. In rank order based on priority of overcrowding, Los Angeles was first for the maximum grant, Riverside second, and Orange County third.

Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff announced the award to fund jail system expansion and ease prisoner crowding on Thursday, March 8. The county’s 3,906-bed jail system has been under a federal court order to ease crowding since 1993. Adding to the problem is recent state-ordered “realignment” and reassignment of low-level offenders and parolees from state prisons to Riverside County jails, which reached capacity in January 2012.

Even with the grant, Sniff said, “We are not just a little bit behind, we’re in deep trouble.” He compared San Bernardino County’s jail infrastructure, a county with a smaller and less rapidly growing population than Riverside County, with the county’s current number of jail beds. San Bernardino has 6,300 beds and is “bursting at the seams,” he said. “We’re at capacity and realignment is just beginning [it began Oct. 1, 2011, pursuant to Assembly Bill 109]. It will take us years to build the infrastructure to accommodate another 1,200 beds.

“In the meantime, inmates are receiving early release, 600 just in January of this year,” said Sniff. He cited the desirability of building a new mid-county jail for reasons of transportation and other cost-saving logistical concerns, but said the likely push would be to expand the Indio jail. “The decision on the location will be for the Board of Supervisors, not the Sheriff’s Department,” noted Sniff.